Senate Debate on Jefferson Davis’s Army Pension
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A Republican pamphlet describing how the motion to deny ex-Confederate president Jefferson Davis a veteran’s pension – based upon his service in the Mexican American War – was defeated along strict party lines. All Senate Republicans voted for denial of benefits, while all Democrats voted in favor. [JEFFERSON DAVIS].
Pamphlet, “Debate on Pensioning Jeff. Davis, Condensed from the Proceedings of the U. S. Senate,” [drop-title]. March 3, 1879. 8 pp., 5¼ x 8⅛ in.
Jefferson Davis (1808-1889). Born in Kentucky, Davis graduated 23rd in the class of 1828 at West Point. Davis was then commissioned a second lieutenant, fulfilling various assignments, including service under Zachary Taylor in the Black Hawk War. He married the future president’s daughter, Sarah Knox Taylor, in 1835. However, Sarah died just three months after their wedding. Davis went on to establish a plantation, Brierfield, in Mississippi, and became a Democratic politician. In 1844, he was elected to the House of Representatives, and a year later, married Varina Howell. Davis resigned his seat in Congress in 1846 at the outset of the Mexican American War, and raised a volunteer regiment, the Mississippi Rifles. He again fought under Zachary Taylor in the successful Monterrey campaign, and was wounded in action. After the Mexican American War, Davis returned to politics, becoming a U.S. senator and chair of the Committee on Military Affairs. Davis served with distinction as Franklin Pierce’s Secretary of War. At the close of Pierce’s term, Davis reentered the Senate, where he became a moderate Southern spokesman arguing for a uniform federal slave code for the territories, but against secession, feeling the South was not yet adequately prepared.
When Mississippi seceded in January, 1861, Davis resigned from the Senate and returned to Mississippi to raise troops. A month later, he was named provisional president of the Confederacy by the Montgomery Convention. Davis was elected to a six-year term as president in November, 1861, under the new constitution, and was inaugurated on February 22, 1862. Davis took a direct role in the management of military affairs and worked with the Confederate Congress to expand the powers of the Confederate government, including conscription, impressment, and suspension of habeas corpus, which prompted some states’ rights opposition to his administration. He quarreled with some generals, including P.G.T. Beauregard and Joseph Johnston, and then named Robert E. Lee to command in Virginia in June, 1862, commencing a series of successful campaigns in the Eastern Theater. During his presidency, Davis was never able to find a strategy that could ultimately defeat the more populous, industrially developed North.
Davis was captured by Union troops in Irwinville, Georgia, on May 10, 1865. Davis was imprisoned for two years at Fort Monroe, Virginia. He was charged, but never convicted of treason, and stripped of his eligibility to serve in public office. With the rise of the “Lost Cause” school, Davis recovered his reputation, especially in the South. He published his memoir, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, in 1881.